Papayas, the delicious, creamy, sweet fruit can be found in most grocery store produce sections, but have you ever wondered if you can grow your own papaya trees? There are a few places you can grow them in the US, but where do papaya trees grow the best?
Papaya trees are evergreen trees native to Mexico and South America. They typically grow in tropical and subtropical areas. In the United States, papaya trees are grown in similar climates such as Florida, Hawaii, southern California, and Texas.
Papaya trees can’t handle cold temperatures or soggy roots, and will grow only in the hottest zones in the United States; these Zones are 9-11. That doesn’t leave many options, but with the right conditions, you can grow your own papayas indoors or in a greenhouse as well! Let’s dive into more detail about where papaya trees grow.
Where Should I Plant A Papaya Tree?
Papaya trees are tropical plants that don’t tolerate cold temperatures, and high winds can damage fruits and even topple papaya trees. If your area is hot enough year-round, you can plant papaya trees on your property and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If you do plant a papaya tree, you will need to plant it somewhere it will get plenty of sun, away from other trees. If there is a fence or building nearby, the papaya tree should be planted facing a southern or southeastern direction.
Pick a place that does not flood or keep standing water. You’ll need sandy, loamy, or rocky soil that drains very well because too much water will cause root rot to your papaya which will kill it quickly. If you have thick clay soil, it will need to be broken up with organic matter and possibly some sand or gravel for better drainage.
Want to learn more about tropical plants? Check out our popular article: 9 Most Common Places That Coconuts Grow!
Can I Plant A Papaya Tree Anywhere?
As we mentioned previously, papaya trees are tropical trees that do not tolerate cold temperatures. Many of you probably have tropical houseplants that you keep indoors and they do wonderfully. You can take these plants outdoors during the warm months, but an unexpected cold snap can quickly take them out; it’s the same with papaya trees.
In the United States, you can plant papaya trees outdoors in Hawaii, southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Although southern Louisiana is in the USDA Hardiness Zones 9-10, this area is typically too swampy and wet to grow papaya trees.
Papaya trees grow in well-drained soil. If the soil around the papaya tree roots stays waterlogged for too long, root rot can set in.
Papaya trees have shallow roots, and even in wet regions, you might be able to grow these trees if you build a mound above the water table. With that being said, let’s get into the next subject of planting papaya trees.
Interested in growing more tropical plants? Check out our guide on how long it takes to grow an avocado tree!
The 6 Best Places To Plant A Papaya Tree (Where They Grow)
Okay, so now we know what it takes to grow these tropical trees, where do papaya trees grow the best? Keep on reading to find out.
Real quick, if you’re interested in learning more, check out our guide about how long papaya trees last and how long they take to grow!
The tropical paradise of Hawaii is a great place to grow papaya trees. This entire chain of islands seems to be made for these trees. The islands are between range from USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12. Right in the sweet spot for papaya trees!
Hawaii is a leading commercial producer of papayas for US consumption. The soil is usually sandy or rocky, which allows for easy draining. The temperatures stay warm and hardly dip in the danger zone for papayas, which is when it reaches at, or below 32℉.
Most likely, the only problem you will face growing papaya trees in Hawaii is if the wind gusts get too high. With the shallow root system, papaya tree roots can’t hold on very tightly to the ground. The fruits also grow at the top of the tree, making them very top-heavy.
If you live in Hawaii, you should have no problem growing your own papaya trees and keeping a constant supply of these delicious, tropical, good-for-you fruits. You lucky dogs.
Texas is another state where you can grow papaya trees. Since the state is so large, there are several Hardiness Zones, but the only area that is best for papaya trees is along the southern quarter of Texas. The areas around Houston, San Antonio, and farther south are more tropical in climate.
Along the upper edge of this area, the temperatures may dip close to freezing. If you are planning on growing papaya trees in these areas you should think about how to protect them from the occasional dip in temperatures. You may have to cover them, or rig up some heating lamps so that your trees don’t get too close to freezing.
Most of Florida has conditions conducive to growing papayas. Florida is another state here in North America that grows papaya trees for commercial production, especially around the Miami-Dade area.
If you live in Florida, you shouldn’t have a problem growing papaya trees, just make sure to watch out for the water table and check your soil conditions carefully. Remember, papaya trees don’t like their roots sitting in water for long. If you dig into the ground and find standing water, or very wet soil, you may have to plant your papaya trees on a mound.
You should also make sure the soil drains well. If you need to, add some sand to the soil mixture, however, papayas still need a lot of organic material to grow those delicious fruits.
Another way to help with drainage is to throw a couple of inches of gravel into the bottom of your hole. This way the water runs through quickly and won’t sit on the tender roots for too long.
Southern California is another place you can grow papaya trees. You will just have to keep an eye out for the temperatures. For the best growth and fruit production, the plants need temperatures between 68℉ to 90℉.
The southern tip of California usually hits these temperatures in late spring and into summer. If it’s going to be a cold winter, you will have to overwinter your trees. You can accomplish this by starting and keeping them in pots, or covering them if the temperature threatens to get too cold.
Papayas are herbaceous plants that do not live for a long time. The average lifespan is about four years. You could probably grow more trees every year, as they tend to start fruiting 6 to 8 months in.
When you harvest your fruit, keep the seeds from one fruit, start the seeds inside about December, then move the plants outside when it warms up. By mid to late summer you should be getting fruits on your new trees.
The desert heat of Arizona is a great place to grow papaya trees. Just be sure to keep them well-watered when the temperatures start reaching the triple digits. You don’t want the roots to swim in the water, but the tree does require plenty of water during long stretches of hot, dry weather.
Don’t forget to add fertilizer during the growth times to keep your plants healthy and disease resistant. Something that is near equal straight across like a 10-10-10 fertilizer will work perfectly.
For winter watering, the University of Arizona suggests making a three-inch trench around the drip line of the tree. The drip line reaches the outer edge of the leafy canopy.
Using a garden spade, dig three inches deep, and about the width of the spade, completely around the drip line of the tree. Fill the trench with water then stop. Don’t water again until the soil is completely dry in the trench.
If you do encounter a cold snap during the winter there are things you can do to protect your trees. You can wrap them in burlap if the trees are not too tall.
Another way to try and prevent frost damage if the temps are going to drop is to use a high-output shop fan. Set the fan on the highest setting, and point it at the canopy. The freezing temperatures shouldn’t stick around for long and the wind prevents frost from settling on the tender green foliage.
Planting Papayas Indoors (And How To Do It)
If you live outside of the recommended growing areas for papaya trees, you can still grow the trees indoors if you follow the proper steps. They really adapt well to greenhouse growing, as long as you keep the papaya trees watered, and fertilized, and you keep it warm inside the greenhouse.
Start your seeds in large planter pots, that will become their permanent home. You’ll need about a 20-gallon planter pot with plenty of drainage holes. Use high-quality potting soil that drains well. You might even want to fill the bottom few inches of the pot with gravel for extra drainage.
Keep the room and the soil warm, especially when starting your seeds. The room itself should stay in the 70s and 80s, and the soil needs to maintain a temperature between 65℉ to 75℉. You can keep the soil warm during germination with a VIVOSUN Durable Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat.
Place them in the sunniest spot you can find. Papayas need 6 to 8 hours of full sun. If there isn’t a spot bright enough, invest in a grow lamp to supplement the needed light. While they are growing, you’ll have to rotate the trees regularly to keep them growing straight.
Move your papaya outdoors when there is no longer a threat of freezing temperatures. During this time, you’ll have to water them frequently. The aim is to keep the soil moist, but don’t let the roots sit in any standing water.
If you don’t have a dwarf variety, the papaya tree could grow too tall to keep inside your house. If this happens you’ll have to prune the tree. Springtime is the best time to prune your papaya as it will heal from the cut in a day or two and start producing offshoots in no time.
Cut the main trunk down to about three feet from the soil line. The tree will begin to sprout more branches just below the cut. After the new branches are 24-30 inches tall, cut the smallest branches off. You want to only keep one or maybe two branches or else the quality of the fruit will suffer.
Don’t forget to fertilize regularly during the growing months. Before long you should start seeing your own papaya fruits on your trees!
Papaya flowers need to be pollinated to produce big, ripe fruits. By placing them outside during the summer months, pollinators like bees and butterflies should take care of this for you.
But you can also do it yourself, using a small, soft paintbrush, dab at the stamens to pick up some of the pollen, then lightly brush the pollen onto the sticky pistil area of each flower.
How Do I Plant A Papaya Tree?
You can grow these fast-growing trees either from seeds straight from the fruit or from a sapling. To grow your own papaya tree from seed, scoop them out of the fruit, wash them, and break them out of the fleshy covering, then let them dry on a paper towel.
Growing From Seed
Once the seeds are dry, plant them either in their permanent spot or in a pot. Cover them with about a quarter-inch of soil and water them. Keep the soil damp; not too wet, and don’t let it dry out. The seeds should start sprouting after two to four weeks.
The soil needs to remain warm all the time, from 65℉ to 75℉ for the seeds to sprout and grow. Once you have plenty of plants growing, cull the weaker ones. You’ll need a few to keep growing because the trees could be male, female, or both.
Male trees have small clusters of thin flowers that grow on thin stalks. Female flowers are singular, bigger, and thicker, and grow very close to leaf stalks. The trees with female flowers are the plants that will net you this delicious fruit.
For permanent placement, you’ll need a warm, sunny place that doesn’t get a lot of wind. The soil needs to be well-draining, and have a lot of organic matter. If you are in a wet area, you can still grow papaya trees but you’ll need to plant them in a mound that is above the water table.
The mound needs to consist of existing soil, and be 2 to 3 feet tall by 10 feet in diameter. In clay soil, mix in potting mix or other organic matter that will allow for drainage. Next, you’ll need to water and fertilize your tree.
Caring For Your Papaya Sapling
Papaya trees don’t like to stand in water, but they need to be watered regularly, because they are thirsty trees, especially when they are producing fruit.
In the summer, the soil around your papaya tree should be moist but not soggy, and in the winter it should dry out between waterings.
Papaya trees need to be fertilized more than the average tree too. Since they are fast-growing trees, they need a lot of nutrients to keep them going well. During the growing season, a well-balanced fertilizer like this Nelson Citrus Fruit and Avocado Tree Plant Food should be applied about once every 4 weeks.
According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Papaya trees can produce fruit in a year after planting from seed. A mature tree that is well cared for can produce up to 100 pounds of fruit a year!
How Deep Do You Plant A Papaya Tree?
Papaya trees have shallow roots and don’t like to be submerged in water. When planting seeds you want to just cover the seed with your soil with about a quarter of an inch of soil.
The main thing is to dig a hole three times bigger than the root ball so the roots can spread. They don’t need to grow deep, but they need to extend out. Also, make sure your soil is not thick and compact, keep it loose so that it drains well.
That’s All For Now!
Papaya trees are a bit finicky, but they aren’t terribly difficult to grow, especially if you live in the more tropical areas of Florida, Texas, southern California, Arizona, or Hawaii.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a tropical paradise, you can still grow your own papayas, this way you can at least have a taste of the tropics.
The biggest things to look out for with papaya trees are making sure the soil is full of nutrients and drains well, and keeping the temperatures above 70°F. Papaya trees like it hot!
We hope this has helped you in your papaya planting endeavors, until next time!
If you want to learn more about tropical plants, you check out our guide on full mango tree lifespan here!
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Figueroa-Yañez, Luis, et al. “RAP2. 4a is transported through the phloem to regulate cold and heat tolerance in papaya tree (Carica papaya cv. Maradol): implications for protection against abiotic stress.” PloS one 11.10 (2016): e0165030.
Hafle, Oscar Mariano, et al. “Production of seedlings of papaya tree using Bokashi and Lithothamnium.” Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura 31 (2009): 245-251.
Serrano, Luiz Augusto Lopes, and Laercio Francisco Cattaneo. “Papaya culture in Brazil.” Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura 32 (2010).